In every combat sport there are always those ‘fights that got away.’ Moments in time where it seemed everything should have been in place for an amazing battle of skill at the highest levels, only for promoters, managers, money, and egos to step in and foul things up. For fans of Fedor Emelianenko it almost feels like there’s a whole career that just didn’t happen. Namely the fights the ‘Last Emperor’ could have taken had he ever competed inside the UFC’s Octagon.
Bouts against Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar, Josh Barnett, Alistair Overeem. All what-ifs at this point. The old story goes that, both when the UFC bought PRIDE and Strikeforce, Emelianenko’s management wanted the UFC to co-promote with M-1 Global, and Dana White refused. Whether that was ever part of the bargain or not, the 46-year-old legend gave his own insight—during a recent appearance on the MMA Hour—on why a deal never came to be with the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion.
To hear Emelianenko tell it, the one time he did meet with Dana White he was still under contract with Strikeforce, and didn’t feel he could accept any offer from White without putting himself in legal jeopardy. Also, the vibes were bad.
“I fought many UFC champions [in my career] and I was beating them all,” Emelianenko explained (transcript via MMA Fighting), noting that if fate had wanted him to be a UFC fighter, he would have been. “So it doesn’t really bother me that I didn’t fight there.”
“There was a moment when the UFC purchased Pride that it was a possibility,” he added. “But Dana White didn’t sign the contract. That’s why [it didn’t happen].”
“We met once. I didn’t know what the point of that meeting was. I had a current contract with Strikeforce while Dana White was offering me a new contract with the UFC. If I signed that contract, I would’ve been stuck, I would’ve had to go to court, and I wouldn’t have been able to fight for UFC or Strikeforce.
“I was on vacation on an island and Dana White came. There was nothing good there.”
Emelianenko is all set to take on former UFC contender and current Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader in the main event of Bellator 290, this coming Saturday, February 4th. The two men met in the cage for the first time back in 2019, in the final round of Bellator’s heavyweight Grand Prix, with Bader defeating the former PRIDE king via first round TKO. Emelianenko followed that loss with back-to-back KO wins over Rampage Jackson and Timothy Johnson. This final bout will mark the 48th of his MMA career, with a current record of 40-6 (1 NC).
Alongside the heavyweight main event, the card is expected to also play host to a middleweight title fight between champion Johnny Eblen and top contender Anatoly Tokov. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and updates on the event as fight night approaches.